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Watch: Do not go gentle into which good night?

09 Oct 2021 2 minute read
Anthony Hopkins. By WNYC (CC 2.0) Young Richard Burton by Hazardone Michael Sheen in Under Milk Wood Credit: Johan Persson

In the week that celebrates National Poetry Day, the National Theatre has re-shared a video originally recorded in May to celebrate Dylan Thomas Day, in which Michael Sheen performs with typical passion on the balcony of the National Theatre in London.

Written in 1947, “Do not go gentle into that good night” celebrates the invincible tenacity of the human spirit, and is ever popular at funerals.

A particular form of poetry, known as a villanelle, it remains one of Thomas’s best known and most popular works.

In the mid-1940s, attempting to secure a steady income, Thomas agreed to write and record a series of broadcasts for the BBC, and he was commissioned to make over one hundred broadcasts between 1945 and 1948

His sonorous voice enchanted the radio public who heard his poetry readings, literary discussions and cultural critiques which spurred on his career as a poet and created a surge of opportunities for Thomas.


Wales has never been short of sonorous male voices and the piece has been done by many greats from Michael Sheen’s neck of the woods and of course by Dylan Thomas himself.

When Anthony Hopkins visited his father’s grave earlier this year, the emotion he felt while reciting the work prevented him from carrying on.

Another South Wales sweet talker Richard Burton gets his version shared annually on National Poetry Day, delivered with resonance and drama.

And then of course we have the man himself, Dylan Thomas delivering as it comes from the author’s head, in an old and precious recording.

So, which one is the most popular?

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Gill Jones
Gill Jones
2 years ago

Dylan Thomas, the master orator, though Michael Sheen comes a close second, followed by Burton and Hopkins.
O mae gennym talent gwironeddol yn y Cymry yma a mawr yw ein balchder ohonynt.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
2 years ago

About 15 years ago there were two young fellows touring Wales with a Christmas play based on the story of Dylan Thomas’ A child’s Christmas in Wales and A Christmas Story by Richard Burton. Both bore a strong resemblance to the characters they played and were a credit to their calling. Sadly I cannot recall their names. There were several touring companies back then, the most memorable, for me, was the Hi Jinx theatre company. Their talent and skills and musicality still linger in my memory. I do hope that when things settle down those in the Senedd will see… Read more »

What Ismyname
What Ismyname
2 years ago

Burton No.1 for me. Best male voice ever!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
2 years ago
Reply to  What Ismyname

I second that…The former MP Elfyn Llwyd had the best voice in the House of Commons by far…if only he was still there…

Martin Owen
2 years ago

Style has changes over the 70+ years. if you listen too broadcasts of the era clipped accents, even from middle class Welshmen, were much more the order of the day. Today, Sheen’s theatricality and stymia are valued. Each unto their own interpretation.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Owen

stymia ? You have me stymied there

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